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My best teacher

Arthur "Pop" Hudson did more than anyone to encourage my interest in sport. He was the games master at Raley Secondary School in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, but he also took us for English and, if I remember correctly, for geography.

He was a tall man, over 6ft, and a fitness fanatic. He played a lot of cricket himself. He was in a team called Wombwell Main in the Yorkshire league known as the Yorkshire Council. Every day at lunchtime, and even in the breaks between lessons, whatever the weather, Arthur Hudson would be in the playground with a bat and ball in the summer and a football in the winter, organising practice sessions. He gave us so much encouragement; I think that's how he got the nickname Pop, because he was like a father figure to us.

Tommy Taylor, who went on to become a Manchester United and England centre-forward, was at school with me and also received a lot of support from Pop Hudson. Sadly, Tommy was one of the Busby Babes who lost their lives in the 1958 Munich air disaster. He was the best centre-forward I've ever seen. He played l9 times for England and scored 18 goals.

Another well-known sportsman, Arthur Rowe, was at Raley with us. He went on to represent England in the shot putt in the Rome Olympics. I definitely think it was due to the encouragement of Pop Hudson that so many of us were keen on sport.

I wasn't very good at other things at school, but I became captain of both cricket and football. I was probably actually better at football but I damaged my right knee and after that stuck to cricket. I was a star batsman and bowler at schoolboy level. When I was 15 I played for Barnsley Cricket Club in the summer and Barnsley Football Club in the winter, but for a Yorkshireman cricket always has to come first. It's the ambition of every schoolboy in Yorkshire to play for his county at cricket. I've kept every newspaper cutting that mentioned my matches.

Another teacher I remember well was Harold Rushworth, who joined the school towards the end of my time there, and helped Pop Hudson on the sports field. Both men gave me, and the other boys, the enthusiasm and willpower to want to succeed and a belief in ourselves.

I'll remember them both as long as I live. I kept in touch with them after I'd left school but they are both dead now. I'll always be grateful to them. If it hadn't been for their encouragement, I could have ended up down a coal mine like my father.

The only prizes I ever won at school were for sport. In lessons I was always thinking about football or cricket and longing for the time when I could go out and join Pop Hudson in the playground or on the sports field. I once got six of the best from the headmaster, Henry Bird (no relation), for playing truant when a group of us went to watch England play Australia at Headingley.

The day before I left school, the head sent for me and said: "I've got some advice for you, Dickie. If I were you, I'd stick to sport and try to make a living out of it. You're not much good at anything else." It was good advice. And who would have guessed that my autobiography would have sold half a million copies and become the best-selling sports book ever? That's not bad for a lad from a secondary modern school who wasn't much good at his lessons.

For 24 years the legendary umpire Dickie Bird strode the world cricket stage until his retirement last September. The 66-year-old was named Yorkshireman of the Year in 1996 and Yorkshire Personality of the Year in 1997. He has been awarded honorary doctorates by Sheffield Hallam University and Leeds University for services to cricket. His life story, 'Dickie Bird: autobiography', was recently published in paperback by Hodder and Stoughton at #163;6.99. He was talking to Pamela Coleman

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